My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Tangents (Wario, Mozart, Marsalis)

Quick Links, News and Good Reads: It’s been over a month since the last Disquiet.com Field Notes. This is a kind of spring cleaning. It’s absurdly long. And to think, this is just the good stuff. And there’s more of note to follow in near future:

(1) The musicality of the Wario Ware Twisted video game (for Game Boy Advance) becomes more evident as playtime goes on. Not only is each successive accomplished level celebrated by adding another cartoon character to a 1970s-style disco dance floor, but among the “souvenirs” one can accumulate are LP records, which can be “scratched” by twisting back and forth, and a little windup music toy. All “virtual,” of course (warioware.biz/twisted). … (2) Also in music-gaming: info on Rhythm 2.0 for the PlayStation Portable (link) and (3) the Nintendo DS title Elektroplankton (link), both at createdigitalmusic.com. … (4) That ever-informative site has been covering the NAMM convention, with info on various mass-market music gadgetry. Other recent tidbits: (5) a robot drummer (link) and (6) an upgrade to the Audacity sound-edit freeware (link). (Once upon a time, NAMM stood for “National Association of Musical Merchants.” Now it’s gone global, and it’s just called NAMM.) … (7) The musicthing.blogspot.com site is at NAMM, too. And it has (8) great recent links like way-back-machine PDFs of Synapse magazine (link) and (9) an announcement of another digital music tech blog (digitalmusicmag.blogspot.com). … (10) And skratchworx.com is at NAMM, too, with an emphasis on DJing. …

(11) Speaking of way back: The October 2005 issue of Harper’s had a lengthy article by Ben Marcus, “Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life as We Know It,” which in essence set fiction that simplifies itself and follows familiar story forms against fiction that is, in a word, “experimental” and plays with form at the risk of turning off readers. Even had Marcus not made many musical references in the piece, one might have been inspired to produce the following remix, or cut’n’paste switcheroo: swap out alt-country for everything in Franzen’s corner and experimental music for everything in Marcus’, and come up with a revealing alternate essay about cultural assumptions (i.e., domestic realism as the homey verse/chorus/verse of literary fiction). … (12) Going back even further (sorry, this stuff stacks up), the July 2005 issue of Harper’s had some cool musical transcriptions of laughter (“Ha Cappella”); now if only someone would commission Steve Reich or Scott Johnson to compose a string quartet to accompany ’em. …

Recent New York Times coverage of interest: (13) January 20 review of Brian Dewan and Leon Dewan‘s Dewanatron show at the Pierogi gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (nytimes.com). The Dewans, who are cousins, make their own hand-crafted “solid-state analog synthesizers,” which resemble “Arts-and-Crafts-style housings for radios, clocks or meteorological instruments” (images at pierogi2000.com). … (14) Also January 20, audio-book producers ponder how a footnote should sound (nytimes.com, with audio clips). (15) January 17, on Dorkbot, the global club of individuals who fiddle in the corridor between science and art (nytimes.com), with coverage of founder Douglas Repetto, plus Mikey Sklar (he’s put a “Radio Frequency Identification tag under his skin”), Alyce Santoro (“audible textile she had woven from recorded audiocassette tape”), Luke DuBois (“time-lapse phonography”) and Michelle Rosenberg (“headphone sculptures”). (16) January 15, Rob Walker in his “Consumed” column on Breezy Singers, those little Japanese bird toys. One store manager suggests of consumers, “They are drawn by the calming effect of the sound the birds make.” As Walker writes, “That’s a possible explanation, but it seems incomplete at best,” and compares and contrasts the gadgets to karaoke machines and iPods (nytimes.com). I want to hear one in a duet with the Buddha Machine. (17) And from back in November: Think kids like noise? Check out the Mosquito, invented by Howard Stapleton. “[It] emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he says, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30.” And, thus, keeps shops free of teenagers (nytimes.com). …

(18) Matmos interview in the Boston Globe (boston.com): “Most electronic music really suffers from a lazy sort of abstraction, where there’s no way in for people who aren’t already acolytes,” [member Drew] Daniel says. “It’s kind of forbidding and meaningless.” … Among the year’s many best-of lists, (19) Philip Sherburne on top techno (pitchforkmedia.com) and lists from the absurdly informed cash-register jockeys at the estimable stores (20) Aquarius Records in San Francisco (aquariusrecords.org) and (21) Other Music in Manhattan (othermusic.com). … (22) ArtForum on Matthew Herbert live: “The whole affair has the feel of a self-congratulatory rite” (artforum.com) … Two for the circuit benders in the audience: (23) PlayAway, with the requisite internal capitalization, is a standalone device that only plays what’s on its chip, in this case an audio book (playawaydigital.com). Initial titles include David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (the self-help book for Generation Web), David McCullough‘s 1776 (in which Benjamin Franklin will, no doubt, be found to have invented something quite like this 200 years ago) and Dan Brown‘s The DaVinci Code, in which Leonardo DaVinci is no doubt found to have invented something quite like this 500 years ago. The DaVinci Code is officially the Doom of literature — that is, it’s available on every platform. (24) And in related news from McDonald’s, Happy Meals have gone digital (nytimes.com). … Who says we’re all couch potatoes? (25) Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman) will be composing music for the XXth Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremonies in Torino, Italy, his record label, Minus, announced in an email press release (m-nus.com) and (26) Brian Eno was working on music for the World Cup in June, though FIFA, soccer’s governing body, has cancelled that gala event (nytimes.com). …

(27) What does the Mostly Mozart Festival do for the composer’s 250th birthday? Hire “digital artists” Marc Downie, Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar of openendedgroup.com to do something with the “Jupiter” Symphony (“Ms. Moss seemed hard-pressed to describe the work, and press materials were baffling,” reported the New York Times, nytimes.com). … (28) Musician and 12k label head Taylor Deupree got home from a European tour earlier this month to find his office and studio damaged by water: “the majority of my collection of old analog synthesizers (jupiter-8, 808, and a lot of others) suffered serious water damage and are most likely ruined,” he wrote to the 12k mailing list. Here’s hoping for speedy insurance coverage and re-construction (12k.com). … (29) Scratch magazine was, for its first year or so, self-described as “The Only Hip-Hop Magazine That Reps the Beats,” which is to say it was from another dimension, one in which producers, rather than MCs, took center stage. With the first issue of 2006, the magazine has dropped that tagline in favor of the more general “Hip-Hop for the Rhythm and the Rebel,” and for the first time put a rapper on the cover (well, several of its cover subjects have rapped, but the corresponding articles focused on their production work): Nas, seen standing with DJ Premier. … (30) The U.S. edition of Future Music magazine did two covers for its current issue, February 2006, one with hip-hop DJ Pete Rock, the other with a piece of equipment. It’d be interesting to find out which sells better. … R.I.P., composer (31) Luciano Berio (guardian.co.uk) and (32) guitarist Derek Bailey (guardian.co.uk).

… Select New Releases: These new release lists are less than useful, given the broad range of music released each week. Still, it’s a look at what’s imminent. Names of labels and artists link to webpages, where available and, of course, known. … (1) The rap group AlkaholiksFirewater, with production by Danger Mouse (Koch). … (2) Minimalist Tony Conrad‘s LP Fantastic Glissando gets reissued, first time on CD, with 10 bonus minutes (Table of the Elements). … (3) Current 93‘s Whilst the Night Rejoices Profound and Still, reportedly the 1998 album Soft Black Stars re-recorded with chamber arrangement (Durtro). … (4) Snog‘s industrial-mush “hits” collection, Sixteen Easy Tunes for the End Times (Metropolis). … (5) Post-rockers Tortoise back up Bonnie “Prince” Billie on an album of covers, The Brave and the Bold (Overcoat). … (6) Dub wonder Jah Wobble‘s Mu (Trojan). … (7) The score for the film London is by electronic pop act Crystal Method (Tiny E). Also, (8) the Crystal Method are among the musicians remixing 1980s new-wave classics for Future Retro (Rhino); they manhandle New Order‘s “Bizarre Love Triangle.”

… Disquiet Heavy Rotation: (1) Since first hearing Battles courtesy of the free track (“Itp-2”) posted at bleep.com (more info here), the group’s B EP, EP C and Tras have been looping endlessly. There’s nothing else with quite the exactitude of “Itp-2″‘s taut mangling on EP C (the original presumably being the un-futzed-with, but handclap-enabled, version on B EP), but it’s all quite good, especially the extended tribal glitch of “Fantasy” (on Tras). All three EPs will be collected on a single Warp Records album for release later this year. The band is something of a supergroup, consisting of Ian Williams (Don Caballero), John Stanier (Helmet, Tomahawk), Dave Konopka (Lynx) and Tyondai Braxton (Prefuse 73 collaborator). … (2) The Disquiet Downstream entry of the week was Gregg Kowalksy‘s two swaths of rural ambience (link). … (3) The version of Herbaliser‘s single “Nah’mean Nah’m Sayin” (Ninja Tune) catalogued on the label’s website has a different track listing than the one I picked up. Both have five tracks, but only three in common: the album version of the song, a rootsy bit of funked up hip-hop featuring rapper Jean Grae, off Take London; the original’s instrumental; and a remix by Platinum Pied Pipers. But in place of the apparent official release’s a cappella version and another album track (“Gadget Funk”), the version I’ve got has a radio edit and, the real keeper, an instrumental of the Pied Pipers’ remix. Not surprisingly, the reduction of the extraction is the most enticing rendition. They render the group’s John Barry-esque drama into something dubbier and considerably more relaxed. The only place the Pipers mess up is doing away with the little backward masking that accompanies Grae when she says “I speak subtle so you rewind” in the original. … (4) And while on the subject of instrumental hip-hop: stumbled on nearly complete, rap-less edits of three Beastie Boys albums: Hello Nasty (1998), License to Ill (1986) and Paul’s Boutique (1989). They’re impossible to turn off. Free from the trio’s verbal antics, PB is, in essence, a Dust Brothers record, and a great one at that — a real triumph of soulful studio composition: plunderphonics, minus the snark.

… Quote of the Week: On January 17 in New Orleans, trumpeter and jazz ambassador Wynton Marsalis spoke to the Bring Back New Orleans Committee, complete with PowerPoint accompaniment, in front of the media and an audience of members of the public. He is co-chair of the Cultural Committee. A side door to the huge conference room in the Sheraton on Canal Street kept creaking as people slipped in and out. Marsalis broke from his presentation at one point and said, “You got to help me with that door, man. Boy, that’s one ignorant door. [Audience laughter] You know sometimes a door can squeak and it’s all right, but sometimes it’s — man!” (Anecdote courtesy of a friendly correspondent.)

By Marc Weidenbaum

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